Earlier this month, there was a fire at the Mazomanie Oak Barrens, likely due to an extended drought that began in the spring. The damage was relatively minor, burning an area less than seven acres in size. While it’s a stark view, the DNR already performs prescribed burns in this area to preserve the health of the prairie. When we visited yesterday, the grass was beginning to grow back.
The path, which didn’t burn, can be seen in a photo that I took of my daughter a few years ago.
Sometimes when I go for a hike, I forget my camera. Despite the initial disappointment, it’s okay. The experience will be just as sweet if I don’t document it, perhaps even sweeter as I’ll only have my memories. I feel as if these months where I haven’t been keeping much of an online journal are like those hikes without photos. I still have a good time and live a full life; I just don’t have a tangible way to share it with others.
A lot in my life has changed, but the transitions have been smooth. My uncle passed away in early July. He lived with my grandma and, therefore, tended to her well-being on a regular basis. She is 89 and now lives on her own for the first time in her life. (She was one of 11 children.) I provide her primary care, visiting morning and evening for a total of three or four hours daily. In June, I never would have thought that I could carve 25 hours out of my week, much less do it while increasing productivity in other areas as well. It is quite unfathomable, yet I’m doing it. I think that it just goes to show that we are capable of so much more than we realize, so it’s good to keep challenging one’s self frequently.
I think that I’ll make a little list of what has been going on in my world this summer:
- Earlier this year, at the age of 20, my daughter finally received her Asperger’s/Autism diagnosis. We’ve long known that this was the case but, like with my own health issues, it was difficult to get someone to listen. This is quite validating and she can now receive services that were unavailable to her before this.
- I pretty much abandoned my garden around the end of June. Like much of the US, Wisconsin was stricken with a severe drought and extreme temperatures this summer. The month of July was absolutely unbearable. I am partial to cold weather as it is, so the heat really bore away at my whole being. In August, the heat broke and we received a fair amount of rain. The strange weather of March through July has affected many harvests in Wisconsin, not the least of which include corn, apples, and grapes. Soon I will pull that which I let go wild. I may plant some fall crops and I might yet hoop a few beds. I’m looking at you, leeks.
- Work has again slowed on the Mister Winter afghan. I crochet circles here and there, but to get my project-completed satisfaction on a regular basis, I have been squeezing in smaller projects. I made three plant hangers, a gazillion coasters, and various bits not quite worthy of an individual mention.
- While I did whip up one medium-sized basket because I was itching to do some weaving, I otherwise haven’t done much in that area. I’m planning to do a few Sauk Indian-inspired baskets for the local historical society, which is pretty exciting and interesting to me. I believe that I’m going to make a birch bark bucket and a sweetgrass basket. We’ll see…
- So many people have cut back on taking photos with their camera and are instead doing phone photos. I am guilty of this as well, yet I’m trying to change that a bit. In the meantime, I can be found on Instagram @sonotcool. One of my favorites there is @heiastrid. Her life is so interesting.
- I have been hiking quite a bit again. It hasn’t been lengthy or strenuous, but easy and beautiful. We hit a lot of Wisconsin’s State Natural Areas. Baxter’s Hollow is a current favorite. We’re out there at least once a week. The photos from the Stones Pocket Road post were taken on the way into that site. That reminds me… I need to purchase Baxter’s Hollow Bird Food this week. Their site is gorgeous and has bird song from its location playing in the background.
- I go to the local historical society about twice a week to archive glass-plate negatives. Although we started in March, we’re only halfway through the collection at this time. Each scan is like opening a birthday present. Hundreds and hundreds of birthday presents. One of them included the school above, Hillside School on Prairie Road near Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin.
Oh, little journal, I miss you so.
The garden is filling out so nicely. Nearly everything is in the ground, save for potential nursery purchases and the sowing of additional crops for later in the year. It is all coming together quite nicely. I had big plans for other things last year, like putting in a back door and creating a more permanent outdoor room. I don’t know that we’ll get the door in this year, but I shall continue to upgrade our outdoor living spaces.
I’m thinking about throwing a garden party this summer. Maybe I’ll do it to celebrate 10 years of blogging (in August).
Fences aren’t too common in our neighborhood, so we installed a privacy barrier on the alley side of the yard last summer. The space underneath has a nice variety of shade to partly-shady plants, including hostas, ferns, bleeding hearts, butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), and Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia). I have something else out there too, yet I can’t recall the name right now. I’ll have to check my gardening journal from 2011.
The spot is great for sitting with a book or craft, and it’s also a cool place to take a break from working in the garden beds. Although, above, I’m under the maple next to the stacked herb bed. It was a good place to do a little oregano taming.
I still have to fill my pots with some herbs and self-sowing flowers, the latter coming from the raised beds where they proliferate unless most are moved to other contained spaces.
Of note, but completely unrelated, there’s a new Kilian Martin video. It is totally worth watching.
Tonight, Frontline is airing the episode for which we contributed some footage. It is about cell phone tower deaths. They contacted us in April after seeing some of our tower climbing footage. After that, we went out and shot a bit more. It should be airing at 10PM on most PBS stations. (There are two short clips of our footage. If you watch the online video, our winter scenes from the tower are shown at the 7:12 and 15:12-minute marks.)
Otherwise, just puttering in the garden.
Each Saturday morning, I’ve been going to the Sauk-Prairie Historical Society and working with fellow archivists to scan and analyze local glass negatives from the early 20th century.
I feel like the person in the movies who sits in a dimly-lit library at night, only it’s morning, paging through thick volumes of material and looking for that obscure clue. I’m Lisbeth Salandar tap-tapping into online databases. Last week, I signed an email “Sherlock Holmes”. Next time, maybe, Encyclopedia Brown or Inspector Clouseau.
I was sharing with my daughter some of the subject matter. In the very first image, there was a man crouching in the bushes with a child while his wife posed in the foreground with a bicycle. Yesterday, in what looks like a graduating class of six young women, way over on the edge, there is a man peeking from behind the skirt of a girl. Silas joked that this must have been the photo meme of that generation, the 1910′s version of planking. Glass negative bombing, if you will.
When I get home in the early afternoon, I sit down with a stack of books at my desk and my favorite online databases open on the computer, and I take out the notes from that day’s scans. I generally find a few hits and I get sidetracked by a lot of misses. By Sunday, my desk is covered in papers, they are my tracks in the snow. Arrows. Lists of names and places. Initials instead of whatever RMV means.
Next month, I hope to share the project on PortalWisconsin’s blog, where I am a new contributor. Jody Kapp wrote a nice introduction to the glass slide project HERE.
[The daguerreotype above was found behind another photo when I bought a vintage frame several years ago. More here.]
Through my blog reader, most especially, I have noticed the discernible lack of winter throughout the US this year. I don’t know about other countries and continents, although curious, and whether they too experienced the winter of less-than. It has never been a secret that the coldest season is my favorite and I rarely pick a favorite of anything. I’m too much of the mind that variety is the spice of life and I’ve spent my life trying not to ever have to select just one. That said, winter trumps the heck out of nearly everything else for me.
So, this lack of that we’ve experienced in most of the states has been rather confusing, for plant and beast alike. I mean, of all things, I find myself ready for spring. That completely shocks me. Of course, last year I was determined to find a place in my heart for summer, and I did. I am finding a balance in the seasons again, not that I don’t wish we’d had a proper winter. It’s certainly not too late, by any means.
One of my favorite variables in gardening is the structure of the cold-season garden. You can’t completely plan that. Solid structures can be counted upon to some degree, as well as trees and other plants with some heft or strong stems. The birds and bunnies might peck and pat. After that, the biggest influence upon the architecture is the weather itself. So far this season, I have been unimpressed with the display until I realized that it is nearly March and not only does the Red Russian kale grow, but the Five Color Silverbeet Swiss chard too.
I am so used to a gray scale winter garden that this shock of color nearly threw me off of my gait and onto the wet, muddy path. This isn’t the winter of my Scandinavian-heart dreams, but, oh, I will certainly take it.